‘Most diverse in history’: Ottawa Police officially welcome 2020 class of new recruits

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Police Service officially welcomed dozens of new recruits to the force Wednesday during its first of two formal badge ceremonies this week.

“I want to help people, I want to be out in the community making a change in people’s lives, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Const. Melissa Guenete, part of the OPS 2020 class.

The new officers were officially brought on board Wednesday during the formal ceremony, which was delayed due to COVID. Many of the new recruits have already been on duty for weeks now.

“I’m on the road right now with a coach officer, I’m about 20 shifts in and it’s been an amazing thing. I can actually impact others,” said Const. Niloy Ahmed, the class’s valedictorian.

The 2020 class of recruits is described by the service as the most diverse yet. Forty per cent are women and 50 per cent identify as members of racialized groups.

“I think this represents the best of what our community has to offer, they’ve offered us their best people to be police service members and those service members are going to do their best to serve and protect this community,” said Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly.

The Ottawa Police Service is facing more scrutiny than ever before. Calls to defund the police and freeze its budget are louder than ever.

“Freezing the police budget is the first step to show the Black community, especially in Ottawa, that the police is listening,” said Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, co-chair of the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition.

“Essentially you are taking a stance and saying no we need to find ways to fund people to better support these communities,” added Vanessa Dorimain, the other co-chair of the coalition.

The service has paused recruitment for new hires, and on Monday the Ottawa Police Services Board recommended the 2022 budget be drafted with a zero per cent funding hike.

“We hear the calls to defund the police and freeze the budget, and we’re committed to doing that the work’s already begun,” said Coun. Carol Anne Meehan. 

“But to freeze it this year means we can’t hire the officers that are required in growing communities like Gloucester Southgate Nepean, it’s the number one issue out here,” she added.

So while the officers who took part in Wednesday’s badge ceremony are now officially members of the service, they could be the last new recruits for some time.

“We are coming into one of the most challenging times in policing and we want to bring the best version of ourselves forward,” said Ahmed.

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